Database to track hep C transfusion patients’ health

THE health of people with hepatitis C after receiving contaminated blood and blood products more than 20 years ago is likely to deteriorate in the years ahead, a medical expert warned yesterday.

Eight out of 10 are women, reflecting the large group infected through anti-D immunoglobulin, and most of those infected are now aged between 40 and 65 years.

But of all the infected patient groups, anti-D patients had more favourable results, according to the National Hepatitis C Database Baseline Report published yesterday.

According to the report, there have been 111 deaths and of the 1,081 living patients, 500 remain chronically infected, 444 have cleared the virus without treatment, 120 have been treated and cleared of the virus and a further 17 are still being treated. Ten have received liver transplants.

The largest group in the baseline cohort of 1,192 are anti-D recipients (770), followed by blood transfusion recipients (284), those treated for blood clotting disorders (107), people treated for renal disease (25) and other (6).

Health Minister Mary Harney said the database developed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre would be used by researchers hoping to better understand the disease and enable more effective planning for the emerging needs of the group.

Public health medicine specialist and project coordinator Dr Lelia Thornton said more than three-quarters of the group had been infected for more than 20 years and the disease was now expected to progress in these patients.

Dr Thornton said most of the people on the database did not have any sign of any serious liver disease but cirrhosis was found in 6% of participants and 10 had developed liver cancer.

She pointed out that just 37% of those with chronic liver disease had received treatment but it was felt that this figure would improve with improved treatments.

Most of the patients also suffered from other significant medical conditions that were not necessarily related to hepatitis C infection. These conditions included fatigue and lethargy, depression and joint pain.

Chief executive of the Irish Haemophilia Society Brian O’Mahony said many haemophiliacs with hepatitis C who had died were also co-infected with HIV that accelerated the progression of the disease.

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